Growing up

These chubby feet are waltzing toward manhood so quickly. It is one of the consummate sweet joys of motherhood to have children of both genders, watch in incredulous delight the myriad ways in which they are inherently different from birth. Each of my children is magnificently unique, although they share their papa's olive skin tones and a host of other physical features. I have one tomboy and one girlie girl. Then one who straddles the fence on all issues of femininity - my little lioness. And a manly little boy to top off the brood.

It is easy to forget how fast he's growing, when I watch him slumber. The sweet perfume of baby breath draws from me a melancholy chord of regret over lost days nursing and cuddles missed while away receiving cancer treatment. An even deeper note of bittersweet longing begs me linger at his sleeping side, knowing he will so soon toddle off in individual pursuit of a world that is completely foreign to me, the masculine world he has dwelt in from the moment he first drew breath outside of my clinging womb.

He wrinkles up his eyelids in concentration when I disturb his sleep. Stubborn even in sleep. I look forward to all the curve balls parenting a son will throw my direction. I look forward to the dirty nails, and the sand in the hair, burrs in baby clothes, and sticks and rocks for toys. I look forward to toads in pockets and snakes snuck into bedroom, to model rockets and the smell of fire on a little towhead man-child. Yet I am loathe to give up these sweet baby days. I don't want them to be over quite yet, especially with this last little one. The last baby I will birth.

His golden locks fell like shafts of sunlight as I gave him his first real haircut today. The curls I've loved, that cupped his sea-shell ear lobes, fell last. I briefly contemplated a Hasidic aesthetic, just so I wouldn't have to cut those forelocks off. Vestiges of babyhood. I comforted myself that he's still not even walking...that all this motherly nonsense about growing up quickly is simply that - nonsense! But there it is again, that ache deep within as I watch them grow up right before my very eyes. I bent my head, looking down at those golden curls on the floor, and whispered the prayer an elderly woman at church told me of this past Sunday, "Lord, let me be here to watch his life unfold. Lord, protect my life so that I might be here to protect his."

Mother, oh mother, come shake out your cloth!
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing and butter the bread,
Sew on a button and make up a bed.
Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking!

Oh, I’ve grown as shiftless as Little Boy Blue
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
(Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo).
The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew
And out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo
But I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo.
Look! Aren’t his eyes the most wonderful hue?
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).

Oh, cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
But children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust, go to sleep.
I’m rocking my baby, and babies don’t keep.

~ Ruth Hulburt Hamilton, Ladies Home Journal, October 1958